Enge files ethics complaint against state school board member

Joe Enge, a candidate for the District 3 seat of the Carson City School District, filed ethics complaints in June against State Board of Education member Gary Waters. In the complaint, Enge alleges Waters listed the state department of education building as the address for a nonprofit he started in April 2005.

"What I want to know is who authorized the Nevada Department of Education to form a nonprofit and utilize the facility?" Enge said. "Has the state set up a nonprofit or hasn't it? And can it use state facilities?"

Additionally, the complaint claims Waters failed to disclose his connection with the nonprofit during a related item at the state's June school board meeting.

Enge filed the complaints after attending the meeting. He said he was told by the board's attorney that his own questions needed to be placed on an agenda for answering.

"If they were on the up-and-up and transparent, you'd think they take the opportunity to clarify," he said. "Why did they lawyer-up?"

Waters, who is finishing up his third and last four-year term on the board, said he has nothing to worry about. He started the nonprofit with others to better provide wellness services in schools.

"The problem is anyone can file complaints regardless of the merits," he said. "This is something that's part of being a public officer. It doesn't have to be true for a complaint to be filed. There's no burden of proof for accuracy or fact. That's the sad part."

The nonprofit, called The Center for Health and Learning, initially filed start of operations with the Secretary of State in April 2005. The address was listed as the department of education, Waters said, but he's unsure why or how that happened. He said The Center never used state offices.

Waters, of Las Vegas, is provided space as a school board member and Keith Rheault, superintendent for state schools, said the state provides accommodations when available for agencies working closely with the schools. Those are mainly nonprofit in nature but not necessarily - during the Legislative session, for example, Clark County School District staff is given space in an office modular in Carson City.

Rheault said two nonprofits, the Nevada Public Education Foundation and The Center for Health and Learning, were both offered space. He does not know if The Center utilized it. Earlier this spring, The Center re-listed a name and address unassociated with the department of education.

When Waters addressed the school board at the June meeting, he encouraged the board to consider establishing an oversight committee for mental health programs put to use in schools.

"My suggestion was that (the board) doesn't simply adopt what somebody says is good idea," Waters said. "It ought to go to a committee. They can determine what kinds of supplemental curriculum or screening surveys should be given to the kids."

During public comment on the item at the state board meeting, Enge asked about Water's connection with the nonprofit that had received funding for mental health services from the Trust Fund for Public Education. In his ethics complaint filed later, he said Waters should have disclosed his affiliation with the nonprofit to the board.

"I have disclosed my relationship with the Center for Health and Learning at multiple meetings," Waters said. "It's in the public record. It's in reports to the board."

Enge and Waters talked extensively afterward.

"I don't pretend to know the answers because I was looking for them," Enge said.

• Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at moneill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.


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